A CORRUPT police worker who helped a garage owner secure lucrative vehicle recovery contracts worth £2.5m from West Yorkshire police has been jailed for two-and-a-half years.
Samantha Cooper abused her position to help Michael Blamire “look like the cleverest boy in the class” when he tendered bids to the force for vehicle recovery work.
Blamire was jailed for 14 months over his involvement in the scam.
Cooper, 48, and Blamire, 49, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by abuse of position earlier this month after a trial Leeds Crown Court.
Cooper was the manager of West Yorkshire Police’s vehicle recovery unit at the time of the offending, which occurred during 2011.
The court heard how West Yorkshire Police have responsibility for the recovery of seized vehicles or those that have crashed, been abandoned or broken down on public roads.
Vehicles are recovered using tow trucks or low loaders and are either taken back to the owner, auctioned off or scrapped.
The West Yorkshire force did not use their own staff to recover vehicles but used the services of different garages across the county.
Up until 2012 the force used a management company to organise vehicle recovery and deal with the garages.
The prosecutor said a decision was taken not to use the services of the management company but to make vehicle recovery arrangements in-house.
The process involved dividing the force into ten areas and then inviting garage owners to put in bids for the contracts for each different area.
As manager of the vehicle recovery unit, Cooper was in charge of organising the tendering process.
Cooper of Highfield Road, Overton, Wakefield, abused her position by helping her friend Michael Blamire, of Wakefield Road, Ossett, and his late father Mick Blamire, who were the proprietors of Bridge Garage, in Ossett, near Wakefield.
Jailing the pair, judge Christopher Batty, said: “The real harm is that other operators did not get an equal chance as a result of this offending. This was not a fair competition.
“Samatha Cooper, you were entrusted with the process of awarding contracts worth millions of pounds and you bypassed proper procedures.
“You Michael Blamire, together with your father, put her in that position in order to be sure of the future of your family business.
“This offending undermines significantly the public confidence in a tender process that involves large sums of money. Only significant sentences of imprisonment can follow.”
During the trial, prosecutor Mark Monaghan told the jury: “Samantha Cooper helped Bridge Garage - Michael and Mick Blamire - to put in a very impressive bid.
“In fact it was the most impressive bid from any garage, which enabled them to win three contracts, which resulted in a very substantial increase in their turnover and profits.
“She did this by writing out the tender documents for them and giving what she had prepared to Bridge Garage so they could prepare the documents they were sending to West Yorkshire Police.”
The jury was told that during the tendering process, Bridge Garage was given a score of 87 per cent. The next best score by any a garage competing for contracts was 64 per cent.
Mr Monaghan said: “It was as if she set an exam and gave her friends the answers to the exam. So that when they took the exam they appeared to be the cleverest boy in the class by a long way.
“Bridge Garage got an A-star and the next garage in the class got a B.”
Mr Monaghan added: “When Samantha Cooper and Michael Blamire did that, that was an abuse of Samantha Cooper’s position as the manager of the department.
“She was hijacking what was supposed to be a fair, transparent process. Instead of that they were ensuring that Bridge Garage got the best markets and won contracts worth a lot of money.”
Christopher Terani QC, mitigating, said mother-of-three Cooper had suffered an “emotional collapse” after being found guilty.
He said she had now resigned from her job with West Yorkshire and had lost her pension and family home.
Mr Terani said Cooper was of previous good character. He said she had been vice-chairman of her local primary school and was secretary of Denby Grange Bowling Club.
Jason Pitter QC, for Blamire, said the father-of-one had become involved at a time when his business was under serious financial pressure.
He said the offending was not motivated by profit but in order to carrying on employing members of staff.
Detective Superintendent Simon Bottomley, of West Yorkshire Police’s Professional Standards Department, said: “Following these allegations coming to light, immediate steps were put in place to suspend the police staff member and temporarily cease operations with the vehicle recovery provider reportedly involved.
“During the course of the investigation, the decision was taken to terminate the contract with this vehicle recovery operator and put the three areas covered by this contract out to tender.
“West Yorkshire Police expects the very highest standards of its officers and staff, both on and off duty. Criminal behaviour or conduct which falls below this standard will not be tolerated.
“Samantha Cooper no longer works for the organisation having resigned from her position.”